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Organising your Art | What to keep & what to throw?

Have a look around your studio or maybe even your house, are things feeling a bit cluttered?  Do you have a pile of art, layouts, cards, or canvases waiting for attention, pages that need to be added to journals, kids artwork from the last 10 years or so, a stack of paintings from that very generous friend?  If you love art, you’ll probably love having a home full of it.  I do!  For the last few months (you may have noticed a bit of an organising and cleaning theme on my blog posts of late) I've been steadily working on re-organising and 'beginning' to declutter.  I started with my art room and moved onto the whole house - it's been time-consuming and a bit eye-opening, but I am doing an extremely thorough job and evaluating what works as I go along, it's actually been fairly therapeutic.

If you can't stand the mess  get out of the Studio

But let's get real, you likely either don't have the space to keep it all (like me) or perhaps you just don't love it anymore, people's tastes change, decorating styles change and the spaces we live in don't get any larger - it's time to get a little bit brutal so you can allow some breathing space for the pieces that you really love! If you can set aside a little time to curate your art, then you’ll know how to keep your house looking like a home rather than a storage centre. Curating art is, arguably, an art form in itself. It can be even more challenging when the art has a personal element, or when it's something that you have made.

image from www.sparkletart.com

So here are some tips for someone who's been in the same situation.

Ask yourself if you really want the art

This may seem like an odd question. After all, it’s always something you have because you want it, at least, it should be! But in reality, if you’re anything like most art-lovers or artists, it’s only too easy to wind up with art you don’t actually want any more.  

There are three main reasons why this happens:

  1. First, you may find it hard to let go of the art you’ve created yourself, you may have spent hours, days or even months working on a piece.
  2. Second, you may find yourself being gifted more art than you can handle, even if you like it you may not have room to keep it all.
  3. Finally, sentimental pieces are incredibly difficult to part with.

In any case, you need to come to terms with the fact that art can, and sometimes should be moved on, no point having piles of it all over the place if you don't have room to appreciate and admire it!

Give your art space to shine

To give your wanted art space to shine you will need to make a few tough choices and begin to curate your art, I'm not going to lie this can be brutal!

Before the world had even heard of Marie Kondo, I had a simple formula for deciding what to keep and what to throw away.

  1. Do I love it or do I need it? If yes then it stays
  2. Do I like it but not need it? That's a maybe, compare it to something else in the Like pile - which thing do you like more, keep the one you like most!  This step is the most time-consuming but also the most useful, comparing things really highlights what you want to keep!
  3. I don't like it and I don't need it? Then out it goes - this is the easy part unless there is sentimental value, ask your family if it's something they want - if the answer is no, then gift it to someone you will love it for you, art should be loved!

Once you’re left with the pieces you really want, you need to work out how to display them. Firstly, you need to figure out if you have enough space to display all your artwork all of the time. Realistically, if you’re like most people, the answer is probably going to be no.  

  • One way to deal with this is to put some of your art into storage. Then make a point of changing out what’s on display so everything gets a turn. 
  • If you keep sketchbooks and journals, think about covering them and placing them in piles as decor, this way you can flip through them easily.
  • Can't decide, then consider a Gallery Wall!  For pieces, you hang on walls, trace their outlines onto paper (cheap brown paper is fine). Then you can easily play about with different hanging locations before you commit. You can also put some pieces on easels. 
    More info on creating a Gallery Wall.
    I'd love to create my own gallery wall in the studio, so far I can't quite convince Mr Sparkle Tart - but I'm working on it.

Re-home your unwanted art

Quality pieces can be sold, donated or gifted. If you want to keep their memory, then make sure that you take a clear photo of them before you pass them along. Pieces you’re not so happy with can be recycled in various ways.

  • Paper: You can literally recycle paper.
    Alternatively, you can reuse it for different art projects such as collage or decoupage. This can be a great way of keeping a souvenir of children’s artwork without having to store vast amounts of paper or you can photograph select pieces and create a custom coffee table book. This isn't just for kids art mind you, what an amazing way to show off your own art.
    More ideas for what to do with kids' art.
  • Canvas: You can literally paint over canvas and if you don’t want to then somebody else will.
  • Books: Never be afraid to split up the pages of sketchbooks and journals. Realistically, most of them are probably going to contain a mixture of pieces you want to keep and pieces you don’t or at least not physically. For example, your planner pages may look great but are they still relevant to your life?  

How-to-store-kids-artwork-artkive-conciergeImage credit: Artkive 

Don't be fooled, this process isn't easy, you may feel upset, sad, frustrated - even guilty!  But when you are finished you will have things that are meaningful and that make you happy, it really is worth it!